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Bellona leads in the EU hydrogen debate

Bellona-leder Frederic Hauge tok opp de alvorlige konsekvensene Sellafield-utslippene har for norsk havbruksnæring.
Foto: Hanne Bakke/Bellona

Publish date: April 5, 2004

Written by: Paal Frisvold

BRUSSELS—If we take the greenhouse effect seriously, there are no other solutions than to produce larger amounts of hydrogen from oil, gas and coal with carbon dioxide handling, Frederic Hauge proposed at the European Union Convention “Fuels for a Future Generation—a Sustainable Energy Outlook for Europe,” held in Brussels late last month.

In his address March 18, Hauge urged Europe’s Petroleum and coal industry to start producing hydrogen in order that the auto industry can cease its complaints that there is no hydrogen available on the market.

The convention was organized by The Economist magazine group’s Brussels publication “The European Voice,” and summoned over two hundred participants from the European petroleum industry. Among them were auto manufacturers as well as energy and environmental organizations. Environmental organizations were represented by the European Renewable Energy Council, the European Wind Energy Association, the World Fuel Cell Council, the Climate Action Network and Bellona.

Pure Fossil Energy is the way to go for the hydrogen community
EU Development Commissioner Phillipe Busquin made the main contribution to the conference by , presenting the EU’s strategy for advancing the hydrogen community. Busquin emphasized the need for new technology which can purify fossil fuel. Though such technologies do exist today, he emphasized that fossil energy is the only way to reach the goal of a hydrogen community and that by building renewable energy sources in parallel with the operation of the old, renewable sources can eventually replace fossil fuel for the long-term.

Bellona’s Hauge participated in a lively panel discussion with Jeremy Benthan from Shell Hydrogen, Pirjo-Liisa Koskimäki from DG TREN, Richard Clegg from BNLF and André Martin from Ballard Power Systems, among other participants.

Hauge presented the results of Bellona’s work in identifying practical and realisable opportunities to accelerate the transition to a hydrogen-based energy economy. His presentation was followed by questions from, among others, Carmen Difigloi of the Paris-based International Energy Association, or IEA, which has traditionally been complimentary of Hauge’s innovations.

What emerged from a debate on what a hydrogen-based society would look in practice was an intense debate on carbon dioxide handling and what opportunities hydrogen would allow for the petroleum sector.

Chicken and egg polemics—again
Several representatives of the European petroleum sector were somewhat behind on what their opportunities would be for producing pure energy under a hydrogen-based system. Auto-makers often present the argument that they cannot start the production of hydrogen fuel cell powered cars before the petroleum sector has established a sufficient filling station infrastructure along Europes roadways.

Shell’s Jeremy Bentham, who is also the leader of the European Commission’s technology platform for hydrogen and fuel cells, said that these “chicken or the egg” polemics are threatening to derail the entire hydrogen debate. He said that Europe already produce vast amounts of hydrogen, and that there is nowhere in Europe that lies more than 100 kilometres from a refinery. He underscored that the technology exists and what is needed to intensify the industry, with a special eye to reducing prices on fuel cell cars. .Europe’s biggest problem is fragmented market politics and research, said Bentham.

The nuclear industry joined in the vigorous panel debate. Its report, “The Environmental Impact Study for The Use of Nuclear Power,” was summarized by Richard Clegg of British Nuclear Fuels, or BNFL, and was supported by French representatives of Areva. Frederic Hauge, meanwhile promised a response to the nuclear power study.

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